Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Past Perfect Continuous Tense: Frequently Asked Questions

What is the verb-form in Past Perfect Continuous Tense?

The verb-form is: had+ been+ -ing -form of the lexical verb Example: had been sleeping . Please remember that the first auxiliary had remains unchanged in form whatever may be the number, person or gender of the subject! In several European languages the auxiliary in past tense is inflected for number, person and gender of the subject. English is an exception

What is the context for using the Past Perfect Continuous Tense?

Past Perfect Continuous is used when there are two past actions in the sentence .The earlier action is of an extended or prolonged nature. The emphasis is on the continuity of the earlier action .Please look at this example:

Before he returned to India in 1914 , Mahatma Gandhi had been practising as a lawyer in South Africa.

In this sentence there are two actions : return and practise Both happened in the past . The earlier action practise lasted for quite a long time. Hence, it is put in the past perfect continuous . The other action return is put in the Simple Past

What is the difference between Past Perfect and Past Perfect Continuous Tense?

In Past Perfect also there are two past actions One of them is earlier than the other. The emphasis is on the time gap between the two actions . Look at this example;

When I reached the station, the train had left .

There is a clear time gap between the two actions and this is highlighted by the Past Perfect Tense . But the emphasis in Past Perfect Continuous Tense is on the continuity of the earlier action . See these examples:

* She had been living in India for ten years before she emigrated to the US.

* He had been working as a teacher before he became a lawyer .

What about an extended earlier state?

The verb be is a stative verb and ,therefore, it does not have continuous form . When we have to express an earlier state of a continuous nature we have to make do with Past perfect. Examples:

* Ronald Reagan had been a Hollywood actor before he became the President.

8 He had been happy till he married her.

*Putin had beenthe President of the Russian Federation before he became the Prine Minister.

What is the difference between Past Continuous and Past Perfect Continuous ?

In Past Perfect Continuous there are two past actions and the earlier action is of a prolonged nature.
In Past Continuous one action happened while another action was going on .

* He came to my house while it was raining hard,(past continuous)

* It had been raining for several days before it cleared up suddenly.(Past Perfect Continuous)

Please note that the use of Past Continuous in the place of Past Perfect Continuous is a mistake in grammar This mistake is common among ESl learners

.Enough for Past Perct Continuous! Bye-bye till the next post!\

Thank you


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